… and a rising UK star
Meet DanSusman, British film’s newest award-winner. By Ben Silverstone
ONE MORNING t hree years ago, British director Dan Susman awoke with an idea for a short f i l m pl a y i ng i n hi s head. Aimed at addressing questions of prejudice within and between ethnic communities, the piece would chart the bittersweet wedding-day travails of a Jewish bride and a Palestinian groom.
Last Sunday, Veils, written and directed by Susman, received its premiere at the UK Jewish Film Festival, having picked up the festival’s Short Film Award. It is fair to say that the passage from dreamtime genesis to onscreen realisation has been something of a journey.
“Originally, the concept was to revolve around a [Muslim] Sunni and Shi’a wedding,” the 28-year-old Susman explains over a bowl of hot green soup in his North London flat. “But I realised the story had to be about the Jewish and Palestinian communities.
“I felt a responsibility to explore questions about Israel and Palestine and identity. I was also influenced by Jack Rosenthal’s [1976 television play] Bar Mitzvah Boy and its humane take on Jewish storytelling.” It may have been Susman’s Rosenthal-esque knack for combining well-observed humour with keen poignancy that secured the casting of Rosenthal’s widow Maureen Lipman and David Horovitch.
Modestly conceding that he was “terrified” at the prospect of directing such established performers, Susman describes the shooting process for this, his third short film since leaving Cambridge University seven years ago, as a giant learning experience.
Having gained the confidence from the success of Veils to branch out stylistically, Susman is now editing a feature-length mockumentary and de- veloping a thriller script of his own. But he also speaks passionately about carrying on the community-spanning work he has started with Veils, a film made with a cast and crew comprising Jews, Arabs, Zoroastrians and — improbably — a Bengali-Italian.
“I want Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian films to be a continuing collaboration: film is such a powerful way of exploring common stories.
“The more moderate, human Palestinian and Jewish voices we hear, the better.” Veils is screened at the Everyman Cinema, London NW3, on Thursday, November 15. Tickets on 0870 066 4777
Dan Susman ( centre) directing the multi-cultural cast of Veils